Smart working, how it works

Smart working, how it works

Smart working

The term became public in 2020, when the restrictions introduced by the government then led by Giuseppe Conte to tackle the health crisis had forced most companies to reorganize their activities in order to continue operating even without the presence of employees in the workplace. In truth, however, smart working in Italy has a much longer history than the pandemic: a first version of a flexible working model had been proposed even in the 90s, and in the years preceding the pandemic there were several more or less successful attempts to introduce smart working as a work model accessible to employees in companies operating in sectors that are also different from each other.

Of course, there is no doubt that the pandemic has contributed to giving centrality to the public debate on the issue, but a few months of smart working were enough because, net of the pandemic, most of the workers - most of whom have in fact discovered this way of working during the first months of the pandemic - realize the benefits that can emerge from being able to manage the work activity without depending on being present at certain times or not. If initially smart working was mostly considered a useful tool to avoid the spread of contagion, that of agile working is now an increasingly consolidated way of working, and the general impression is that the more we go on, the more it will be.

According to Arianna Visentini - co-founder and co-managing director of the consulting and organizational innovation company for the adoption of smart working policies Variations - a future in which agile work is the default and preferred by workers is now inevitable. "Young generations take it for granted that they can work smart - she told Visentini - it is the approach to work that has changed. For young people it is counterintuitive that they are asked to enter the office at 8 and leave at 17 regardless of the tasks they have to perform. " Net of a process that presumably will be increasingly widespread in our country and beyond, it is therefore useful to understand what we are talking about, starting from the apparently most basic questions.

What is smart working? How is it organized in Italy today? How do smart working contracts work?

What is smart working?

The term smart working is defined by the Italian legal system as a "method of execution of the subordinate employment relationship established by agreement between the parties, also with forms of organization for phases, cycles and objectives and without precise constraints of time or place of work, with the possible use of technological tools for carrying out the work activity ". The fundamental elements are the absence of time and workplace constraints, the fact that the work is organized by phases, cycles and objectives, and the fact that the terms of the employment relationship are explicitly established through an agreement between the worker. and the employer.

This definition - as well as the law 81 of 2017 from which it is taken, which explicitly regulates the topic - actually refers to agile working, a concept that can be superimposed on smart working but which according to Visentini has a slight nuance different that should not be ignored. In the course of the text, the law in fact provides that, although there is absolute flexibility between the two ways of working, there is still an alternation. In article 18, it is specified that "the work is performed partly inside company premises and partly outside", while in Visentini's application of the term it is intrinsic that, if the worker so desires, it is possible also work completely in person or completely remotely. For her, smart working "is a way of working that allows people to decide independently where to work, when to work and how to work". It is therefore nothing more than "an expansion of freedom in the way of working." Despite this nuance, she too considers the terms "overlapping."

How is it organized today in Italy?

To date, as mentioned, the regulatory framework that regulates agile work is mainly given by Law 81 of 2017. With the pandemic, further regulations arrived, which mainly clarified and in some cases simplified what had already been established by the original law.

In the meantime, it should be specified that even before the entry into force of this law, however, smart working as we know it today was feasible under current legislation, and several companies had adopted it through second-level agreements. Suffice it to say that companies such as Telecom and Tetra Pak had introduced an agile working method already between the 90s and the early 2000s and that one of the first smart working agreements in Italy, signed within the San Pellegrino company, dates back to 2006. According to Visentini, the legislator's need to regulate the law through a bill stems from a regulatory uncertainty linked to compensation in the event of a claim, but the law itself has done nothing but formalize a process on which the territories they were already moving and for which several companies had already organized themselves.

According to the law, workers who choose to work remotely are guaranteed equal treatment with respect to their colleagues who perform the service on site, both economically and at a regulatory level. In fact, it is specified that agile work should not be considered a different type of employment relationship, but simply a particular way of performing the service. This applies to both public administrations and the private sector. For example, protection in the event of accidents and occupational diseases is provided in the manner illustrated by Inail also for workers who choose to work remotely. Another peculiarity that is explicitly specified is that the employer is responsible for the safety and proper functioning of the technological tools assigned to the worker for carrying out the work activity.

How smart working contracts work ?

In Italy, agile employment contracts are individual, and have some characteristics that must be indicated by law. There must be a precise indication of how the presence-absence alternation takes place, which can be formulated through an explicit number of days that can be carried out weekly outside the workplace or through a percentage of the overall time on a monthly basis, for example. . The place from which you intend to work must then be specified, given that, as explained by Visentini, "some companies may express their right to restrict the possibility of places from which to work to, for example, only the company headquarters for a safety issue. some data". This does not necessarily have to be the office in the workplace but also a hub closer to the employee's home. Then there are other companies, which presumably do not work with data deemed particularly sensitive or risky, which extend the right to one's home, but also possibly to any place. Whatever option is selected, it is important that it is explicit.

It is then necessary to regulate the timetable. Some agreements provide for an exact overlap of work from home with that in the office, while others provide that you can work when you want as long as you respect the hours of rest. The right to disconnect must also be made explicit, considered by Visentini to be “difficult to manage” but fundamental. Finally, it should be clarified "what is meant by phases, cycles and objectives". In other words, a rough indication is needed on how to define performance objectives and what are the tools to evaluate them.

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